One of Japan’s most remote and rewarding journeys, the Kumano Kodō hiking route weaves through the mountainous Kii Peninsula, south of Osaka. Once a sacred pilgrimage reserved for emperors and samurai, the ‘Kumano Old Road’ is today open to all modern-day seekers and wanderers.
From old road to World Heritage Site
Even before organised religion existed in Japan, locals worshipped nature in the mystical landscape of the Kii Peninsula. Towering trees, the nation’s tallest waterfall, and the mountains in between were themselves considered kami (gods), and a walk among them became a sacred act. Emperors and samurai kept detailed diaries of their pilgrimages here; one of the earliest was by Fujiwara-no-Munetada (1062–1141), an aristocrat who travelled to Kumano in 1109.